Two Men Cried

mack and trashEarly in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed.  So they bound Him, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate the governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.  “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.  Matthew 27:1-5 (NIV)

There is a great deal of controversy over the acts and death of Judas Iscariot. I don’t plan on resolving any of those debates.  Judas’ actions offer a simple message for you and me.

Something interesting occurred on the night of Jesus’ arrest. Yesterday, Peter realized what he was capable of when the rooster’s crow caught his attention. Peter wept bitterly because of his poor performance—the betrayal of his close friend.

There was another person upset with his poor performance that night, Judas. The character is infamous—his name equivocated with betrayal and distrust. Do you know anyone named Judas? I don’t.

While many can tell the story of Judas’ betrayal, I’m not sure that’s the point. Failure is hardly something that needs to be taught, or even pointed out. The gasp at Judas’ betrayal is not surprising.

As Peter learned, everyone has the capacity to fail—to fail willfully, to fail utterly. Judas simply provides another example of that.   Both men lived with Jesus. Both men heard His teachings and saw the miracles. Just like Peter, Judas ate some of the left over fish and bread the day Jesus fed the 5,000. Judas was awestruck as Jesus calmed the storm at sea with just a word. As Peter mouthed off to Jesus the night Jesus began to wash Peter’s feet, according to scripture, Judas sat quietly as Jesus demonstrated the same love and compassion to him.

Failure is common. It’s the response to the failure that makes all the difference. It’s the response to their failure that separates Peter and Judas. That is the “take home” message from these two very different examples.

Both men failed. Both men felt the sting of guilt. Both men realized the wrong. Peter wept bitterly. Since Judas wasn’t alive to tell his story, we are left to guess, but I’m sure he wept bitter tears as the outcome of his failure played out before his eyes. It’s here these two men differ.

Judas tried to remedy his failure on his own. He attempted to stop the deal—to return the 30 pieces of silver—but it was too late.   The act was done and all that was left was the consequence. Then, in an act of despair, Judas tried one more remedy—under the weight of guilt —he crumbled. He made the un-doable decision and ended his life.

Judas heard the words of Jesus,

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:27-31 (NIV)

Judas couldn’t imagine those words applied to him.

Have you sinned a sin that keeps you away from Jesus? Are shame and guilt all you hold? Are you full of remorse that keeps you from repentance? Do you think Jesus holds you to a standard He wouldn’t maintain?

Jesus is ready to forgive your deepest, darkest, blackest sin–that secret sin only you know!

Remorse and repentance aren’t the same thing. Remorse leaves you wallowing in your shame. Remorse pushes YOU to find a solution—to make amends.  Repentance includes remorse, or regret but it goes one-step further it involves change.

If Judas cried his bitter tears that night and then ran to Jesus, this story would have a very different ending. There is ALWAYS forgiveness at the feet of Jesus.   There is ALWAYS an accepting embrace when the remorseful repent.

Shame and guilt never restore relationship. Jesus is not interested in what YOU can do to make things right. Jesus offers grace—the undeserved gift—to anyone who asks. Abandon the shame of your sin. Let go of the guilt that keeps you from coming to Christ. Don’t believe the lie that you need to fix yourself before you come.

Let Jesus in His love and mercy wash your feet, feed your soul, and calm your spirit with His forgiveness.

Father, when I need forgiveness don’t let my shame and regret keep me from coming to You. Remind me there is no good thing I can do to make myself better or acceptable apart from accepting Christ’s sacrifice. Turn my remorse into repentance.  

 

The Rooster’s Warning

roosterAnd when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.  A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:55-62 (NIV)

Matthew                Mark                   Luke                     John

Peter’s three-time denial is a well-known story.  It appears in all four gospels.   Jesus, in response to Peter’s bold proclamation to follow Jesus to the grave if necessary, predicted Peter’s denial before the rooster crowed.   That’s an odd indicator—a rooster’s crow.

If you are “city folk” and watch movies, you may be inclined to think roosters only crow at dawn. It’s quaint and it does occur. If you’ve spent any time on a farm with a brood of chickens, it doesn’t take long before you find the rooster’s “cock-a-doodle-do” isn’t reserved for only daybreak.

I’ll admit I’m a little afraid of chickens. Hens and roosters have chased me. Although a chicken’s arsenal is limited—flapping wings, sharp claws and sturdy beaks—they can put up a painful fight as anyone who’s been flogged or pecked can attest. Still, chickens are truly chickens at heart. They would rather avoid a fight than try to win one.

Enter the rooster. It’s a rooster’s job to keep his chickens safe. To accomplish that, he crows when there is danger. That is why roosters crow at times other than dawn. If you watch the hens when the rooster crows, you’ll see them all stop whatever it is they are doing—frozen, the hens watch for any sudden movement—the movement will send them clucking and scurrying in different directions or back to hen-house.

Peter ran the gambit of emotions during the Passover meal, the garden prayer, the arrest and the trails of Jesus. Peter watched from a distance as the predictions of Jesus began to play out before his eyes. Peter was probably wondering how difficult it would be to find a new fishing boat as he wondered why he wasted three years following this man, Jesus, around. Fatigue, fear, panic—I’m sure they all swirled in his mind as Peter watched the man he pinned his hopes on taken into custody and beaten. How long would it be before he was the one being beaten? If he could lay low — maybe this nightmare would end and the twelve would be together again, with Jesus—as it was before Judas ran out and Jesus insisted on talking about His death.

Then Peter heard the words, Hey! You were with HIM! Peter’s reaction was the perfect “blow off,” Pffft—You don’t know what you’re talking about. Peter was safe for a while as just one of the crowd. As more people recognized him, as his accent betrayed him, his panic moved him deeper into fear and denial. I don ‘t know what curse words were in his culture, but Peter was not going to be named as a friend of that %!#+&* Jesus-guy. The crusty fisherman reverted to his old self and separated himself from Jesus with his frenzied words.

Then a rooster crowed.

I have to think Peter’s heart skipped a beat. His fear turned to anguish.  Peter had to feel naked in the crowd, a crowd that didn’t notice the rooster’s crow.   Jesus, Peter’s friend—beaten, spat upon, silent—made eye contact with Peter. Peter left the courtyard and cried bitter tears.

Peter thought the low light of night and the glow of the fire would hide him. He thought he was safe with his questioning doubt and fear. Peter’s fear led him on a downward spiral that started with words and concluded with raging emotion—the rooster’s crow got his attention. It stopped him.  The rooster’s nighttime cry redirected him. The rooster’s cry warned Peter—the path he was on was far more dangerous than the path he was trying to avoid.

Fear, sin, rebellion, all those lead one down a path of cost, pain and loss. Peter, jolted from his selfish tantrum, saw his friend.  Jesus, the one who loved him, who gave him a new name, who prayed over him, who warned him, the one about to become the sacrifice for the sin of the world—seeing Jesus changes everything.

Two med cried bitter tears that night. Peter’s tears led him to repentance. Peter’s tears, ultimately, led him back to Jesus.

Father, give me listening ears to hear Your voice when my selfish heart tries to lead me astray. When fear and doubt cause me to be willful and frightened—get my attention—draw me back to look at Jesus. Help me keep my eyes on Jesus. Let Your love and grace bring me to repentance.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

Full of Faith—Full of Fear

sneakyThen the people who had arrested Jesus led Him to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of religious law and the elders had gathered. Meanwhile, Peter followed Him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end. Matthew 26:57-58 (NLT)

I feel for Peter. I would hate to have my actions recorded for anyone to read. If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve read the story. Peter boldly tells Jesus that he will follow Him to the grave. Jesus tells Peter it won’t be long before he denies Him, not once but three times.

We are left to imagine goes through Peter’s mind. I find it interesting that bold, outspoken Peter had a quiet thought of pause after Jesus, during the Passover celebration, told His closest friends that one of them would deny Him. For a moment Peter entertained the notion it could be him.

I can relate to Peter.

I grew up in church. I can sing songs like “I Surrender All” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” without the hymnal. While I’m at church the words come easy—I surrender all, all to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

Then I leave church.

Sometimes I act like Peter and follow at a distance waiting to see how it all will end. I’m sure that evening in the courtyard, Peter was faced with the realization, he had as much faith as he had fear.

There is the lesson Peter’s life offers you and me today. It seems incongruous—faith and fear are incompatible—yet anyone who is honest has to admit, both live in the human heart. So what made Peter willing to jump over the side of the boat one minute and then deny his friend in his friend’s darkest hour?

Proximity.

It’s the thing that makes singing I Surrender All so easy at church but loving someone, not like me, so difficult when I’m at the market moments later.  It’s having the faith to know that God loves me but worrying about what will happen if… (you fill in your if).

See? You and I can curl our lips and shake our heads at how weak Peter was, but in the harsh light of truth, you, Peter and I are all the same. We are more comfortable at a distance when we aren’t sure how things will work out. We are all full of faith AND full of fear.

In our sameness, there is one stark difference. Peter didn’t know how this would turn out. We have the entire story. We have Peter’s eye-catching failures and we see Jesus’ astounding reaction to those failures—love.

So, if your fear is running high, let me encourage you today, move closer to Jesus, even if you don’t see the outcome. It’s in close proximity to Jesus that faith soars and fear fades. King David learned that truth. Paul wrote about it.

If your fear—sin, failure, or your lack of skill—causes you to hide—run to God in faith—He is waiting to forgive, empower and strengthen you. The same love Jesus had for Peter He has for you!

Move close to Jesus. Stay close to Jesus.

Father, increase my faith and help me overcome my fear! I so often stay at a distance because I can’t see how things will work out—how I can be successful, pleasing to You or safe? Those questions plague my mind and I want to run in fear. Remind me that Your love for me is not conditional on my performance. Let Your love for me increase my faith and shrink my fear!

A Tuesday Reminder

pale blue dotIs there any place I can go to avoid Your Spirit, to be out of Your sight? If I climb to the sky, You’re there! If I go underground, You’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—You’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, He even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to You. Psalm 139:7-12 (MSG)

Depending on your computer screen’s resolution, you may not be able to see the tiny dot between the 2 white dashes in the picture above. That tiny dot is what earth looks like from 4 Billion miles away. That’s a lot of miles!! The sun is 93 million miles from earth. It’s difficult to comprehend those kind of distances. As one who asked, “How much longer until we’re there?” about 50 times on a 300-mile trip to grandma’s, the thought of a billion miles doesn’t fit in my head.

That’s the point.

Has life dealt you a blow that knocked the wind out of you? Is there some problem about to consume you? What is the thing that keeps you awake, steals your joy, causes you fear? Whatever that giant is, it fits on that tiny dot. Problems are real. Struggles exist. Pain abounds. Regardless, who you are or what your problem is, it all fits on that tiny, little dot.

If you’re overwhelmed, look at that picture for a minute. Don’t stop there, you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and insignificant. Read the words David penned in Psalm 139.   God knows every detail of every event occurring on this tiny dot.

You are not alone in your struggles. You are not far from God’s watchful eye of love and protection.   Psalm 136 declares God’s infinite love and faithfulness to everyone on this speck. Salvation, protection, provision, goodness and love come from a God greater than the universe. This colossal, uncontainable God directs His attention to this little crumb in space; because of love.

Let God help you with your problem. The problem that is insurmountable to you is nothing to God. God has the incomprehensible, uncontrollable, unimaginable, universe in His hand. God never intended for you to face your problems alone. When you ask He doesn’t have to come running, He’s all ready here, just waiting for you to call out to Him. He’s waiting for you to ask him for help.

What are you waiting for?

Photo courtesy of: The Big Sky Astronomy Club, Inc. Copyright: 2003 – 2012.

The details of the Voyager photo shoot: http://www.bigskyastroclub.org/pale_blue_dot.html

 

 

Toe-Jam and Discipleship

foot wash

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” John 13:8 (NIV)

I decided to have a pedicure—it would be my first—that day I thought it would be my last. For a short time, I worked for a “foot doctor.” I had washed the feet of patients who could not wash their own. I’ve seen gruesome feet; some mangled by lawn mowers, some simply neglected.  With the exception of baby feet, feet tend to be off-putting, unattractive and—at least here in America—private.

As the technician asked, “What color you want?” in her thick accent, I sat in the giant chair. That is when my pedicure became uncomfortable. The woman who was going to pretty- up my toes was about a foot shorter than me as we stood by each other. My lofty perch exaggerated that difference to the point of making me uncomfortable. At the end of my beautification the woman who was doing the job she did everyday received a huge tip from me in an effort to level the field.

I’m glad foot washing is not the norm in our culture. Although the practice was normal in Jesus’ culture, the night John wrote about was not normal. Foot washing didn’t take place during the meal—it was part of the greeting. I’m sure the disciples were dumbstruck and uncomfortable, maybe even a twinge of guilt poked their hearts, as Jesus got up and began to wash their feet.

As Jesus moved around the table, He reached Peter. Jesus explained, simply and directly, that Peter would understand what was happening later. That prompt was not enough to shut Peter’s mouth. I can understand Peter’s uneasiness and nervous chatter. I didn’t know the gal that was about to fuss with my feet on the day of my pedicure and I felt awkward—even though it was her job and she was just another person like me.   Peter suddenly found himself hovering above the man he professed to be the Messiah—the Man who did miracles, the Man who controlled nature, death and demons. Awkward indeed.

What the disciples didn’t know was this was their last peaceful moment with Jesus before His death. Jesus talked about His death and suffering—Peter was mouthy and prideful that day as well. This night was Jesus’ last chance to tell His friends THE most important truth a disciple can know.

Once you claim the name of Christ, the obligation is to love one another. Jesus acted out this truth. It is the mindset, the motivation, and the nature of Jesus’ act that Peter would come to understand in the following days and years. Look beyond the uneasy, prideful outburst of Peter and hear the quiet message of One willing to wash the dirty feet of His followers.

What was Jesus’ message to the disciples—what is they would come to understand?

  • Loving service is the highest call. The Apostle Paul would write about it to the Corinthian church. My paraphrase is; without love as the motivating factor for your actions—you are just busy making noise.
  • Love means loving those who don’t love you. Judas had his feet washed by Jesus that night—talk about uncomfortable! Jesus knew fully and Judas knew his part in the events that were about to take place.   Still, in love and with the desire for Judas’ good, Jesus washed the feet of the one who had betrayed Him behind His back and soon would betray Him openly.
  • Loving is not dependent on the ease of service. Jesus knew what the next hours held for Him. In that situation, my inclination would be some whining, scolding outburst of frustration. Not Jesus, in love He demonstrated the lesson He wanted His followers to learn while His fate, no doubt, weighed heavy on His mind.

I can relate to Peter. Jesus makes me uneasy in these situations. I, like Peter, enjoy serving Jesus on my own terms. I enjoy being part of Jesus’ crowd. Jesus knew the hard days that His “fan club” was about to face. Jesus knew this band of followers would need more “glue” than the memory of His miracles and the echo of His words would provide. They needed action—that action is love one for another. Not just when it’s easy. Not just when it’s convenient. Not only for those who can love you back.

The love Jesus demonstrated and the love He calls His followers to act out is love that acts when there is no benefit to love the other person, when the love shown goes unreciprocated, when it’s inconvenient—Jesus loved His disciples that way. Jesus loves YOU and me that way.  Love is the glue that holds us together as believers

Then Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Lord, help me do them!

Father, this is a difficult passage for me to read. I relate to Peter so well. When it’s easy to love—I love it! When it’s difficult to love—I try to ignore the call. I understand the uneasiness Peter felt—following Jesus isn’t easy—He told us it would require cross-carrying. Teach me to love as Jesus did. Don’t let me be content to live in my pride. Teach me to be a servant.

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You’re the First to Know!

secret

Keep reading–I’m making an announcement today!

Below, you’ll find the links for the week’s posts—you can reread or catch up. Share them with your friends! Check out the little map on the right hand side—I installed it three weeks ago—it’s really filled up! Scroll down and look—you can see who else is reading along with you! That map humbles and amazes me!

If this blesses you, please share it with your friends and family. Thanks to the faithful readers who “like” and share post on Facebook each day. It may seem like a simple, unimportant thing – but it helps and I appreciate your support.

If you have friends and family members who are not computer users, who really like to hold books (as I do), or who need to hear the gospel in a non-threatening way—would you consider purchasing them a copy of one of my devotional books? You can find them on Amazon.com. The Books We Never Read is a 3-month devotional in the Old Testament. Finding the Holy in a mundane world is a 1-month devotional. Thanks in advance!!!

Guess what will be available in a week or two? You guessed it—another devotional. Do you have friend or family that loves dogs? Are you a dog lover? Just in time to buy as a stocking stuffer comes A Clever Disguise (that’s the working title). It’s a 1-month devotional all about God but disguised as a devotional about Ozzy—it will be super affordable so you can buy multiple copies and give them to your friends who need to understand God’s love and grace (This devotional will be especially good for those who may not want to read a devotional “about God”).   I can’t wait for you to see it!!!

By the way—only 10 weekends until Christmas—don’t pay for overnight shipping –order now (A Clever Disguise will be available in time to order for Christmas!)!!

Have you felt like you’re looking in the mirror as you look at Peter’s life? Come back tomorrow. Peter has a few more lessons to teach us.

Monday: Others may have a plan that includes you taking care of yourself.

Tuesday: Are you waiting for things to be just right before you respond to Jesus’ call?

Wednesday: Sometimes the trash has an appeal.

Thursday: God is longing to have a close relationship with you.

Friday: Accepting the LIFE-STYLE Jesus offers is more difficult—it requires some gnawing.

Saturday: It’s difficult to carry your cross when your hands of full of the “stuff” or people you think are important.

Good Or Better—Which Is Best?

good and betterFrom then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and that He would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day He would be raised from the dead. Matthew 16:21 (NLT)

Better is the enemy of good. Have you every tried to fix what wasn’t broken, only to break it? Just one more little adjustment and it will be perfect! As you tighten the screw, trim the edge, or adjust the setting—good becomes non-existent—better out of the question.

Better is the enemy of good. Although that may be true in tinkering, cooking, sewing and life in general, Jesus has THE BETTER way to live. In the life of the disciple “good” is the enemy of “better.” Peter found that out directly from Jesus.

From then on…

It was after Jesus’ praise of Peter’s God-revealed proclamation that you find Peter and Jesus in a very different sort of interaction.  Following the “You are blessed, Simon (Peter)” you read Jesus saying “Get away from Me, Satan.” what opposite ends of the spectrum! Imagine how Peter must have felt.

Peter is not that different from you and me. Remember, Peter was a fisherman. He was rough-and-tumble, and I imagine, rough around the edges. In my mind, I imagine Peter as a man with a scruffy beard, body odor that mingled with the smell of fish and lake water, disheveled hair and dirty clothes—dirty from work—not simply messy. I think Peter talked with his mouth full, wiped his mouth on his arm, and reached in front of others at the table. Peter was accustomed to the looks of people who thought they were better than he was—he was, after all, a common fisherman.

So on the day that Jesus praised Peter, Peter moved up a rung or two on the ladder in his mind. Jesus didn’t praise Luke, the educated physician. Matthew, the tax collector was silent. Jesus and Peter had a special connection from their first meeting—perhaps Jesus’ praise pleased Peter. The boorish fisherman, Peter, got the answer right that day.

The thing Peter didn’t seem to hear was that his “right answer” came from God. So, when Jesus began all His talk of suffering and dying, Peter was eager to speak up again. This time Peter’s words came from his own heart. Certainly, Peter didn’t want his friend to die. Jesus’ response to Peter reveals what was lurking in Peter’s heart.

Jesus’ harsh rebuke undoubtedly stung Peter and stopped his protest.

Peter’s quiet scolding resulted in Jesus setting the record straight, aloud, for ALL the disciples to hear. Jesus’ response revealed the true motive of Peter’s protest. The life of following Christ is not about status, gain or privilege. The life of the disciple is one of surrender, giving, and the loss of what one considers good in exchange for what is better.

The call to Christ’s disciples is a call to the life of a servant, the life of cross bearing, and the life of loss. The temptation to skirt that mission is great—even for Jesus—that is why Jesus was so harsh in His response to Peter’s concern. The glory for the disciple is found in choosing better over good—choosing the eternal over the present.

It’s difficult to carry your cross when your hands of full of the “stuff” or people you think are important. Status, things, relationships—all the trappings of life—Jesus put those things in perspective for His followers that day. He offers the same caution and command to you and me today.  It’s not that difficult to be “good.” “Good” isn’t the call of the disciple.

Keeping your hands on your cross is a life and death struggle with an eternal implication. It’s not an easy call to hear. It’s not one many are willing to answer.

For the believer—the enemy of BETTER is GOOD.

Father, help me to reject the notion of being “good enough.” Empower me to be “better”—to strive for the things that are important to You. Teach me to rely on Your power and grace to carry the cross You’ve called me to carry. Loosen my grip on the good things and give me a desire for the better things You have waiting for me. Give me the heart of a servant.

 

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

 

 

Gnawing on Jesus

gnawing Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”… At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.  Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. John 6:60, 66-68 (NLT)

 

Peter is about to have another shining moment of insight.  John didn’t record his water walking, but this interaction happens after the crowd of 5,000 was fed with the little boy’s lunch, and Jesus walked on the water during the nighttime storm.

This encounter shows Jesus doing what He does best. That thing is also the most disconcerting, if you ask me. Jesus asks a simple, probing question and waits for the answer. Here’s the setting. The huge crowd that Jesus fed and those He healed lost track of Him as He left for some alone time. Remember, Jesus commanded the disciples to get in the boat and cross the lake and then He disappeared. Later, Jesus walked across the lake and calmed the storm. The next day, the crowd realized a boat, the disciples and Jesus were gone and took off to find Jesus.

Once the crowd found Jesus, they asked the desperate question, Hey, what’s up? Why did You leave without us!? It was then Jesus spoke the “hard” words to the crowd. There it is. If you have ever tried to witness about Jesus to your friends or family—you know it’s hard. I don’t mean difficult, I mean “hard” as in difficult to hear and understand. One the surface, the life Jesus offers doesn’t make a lot of sense.

If you read the entire chapter, you’ll see the entire picture. The crowd happily received lunch and healing—the Jesus that provides is an easy Jesus to follow. The Jesus that provides is also the Jesus who calls those who want to follow Him to “gnaw” on His “flesh”, drink His “blood”—to abandon the trite and trivial trappings of life and seek eternal truth.

After Jesus told the crowd, the “hard” things something happened. Usually the Bible records that people followed Jesus, there was a push to be next to Him—the crowds were so intent on being close to Jesus that He had to separate himself from them—not this time. This time, many of the people following Jesus left—Jesus’ teaching was too difficult to accept.

As Jesus turned to His twelve, I imagine Him quietly asking with one eyebrow raised, Are you going to leave, too? Then Jesus waited for the answer. Words on a page make it seem like Peter’s answer was instantaneous—maybe it was—there’s no way to be certain, but I think there was a few moments of uncomfortable silence as Jesus waited for the answer.

I have to think it took Peter a minute or two to come up with His answer. Peter’s response seems sheepish—since he phrased in a question. Think about how you answer when you aren’t completely sure you have the right answer—it’s usually with an equivocating question. Noticing no one else was going to answer, Peter offered a response, Who else can we follow?—You’re the only One who offers something worth having—eternal life.

Have you been in that situation? On the days when you feel particularly blessed, when your spiritual tummy is full of bread and fish or you’ve been snatched from the storm, there’s a skip in your step. Following Jesus is a blast. Those moments fade, sometimes quickly, as the command— love those who hurt you and don’t seek revenge but bless them—leaves you in a conflicted quandary. On the day when there are bills to pay and no money in your pocket, the memory of yesterday’s free lunch grows faint rather quickly.

Jesus believes in truth in advertising— Jesus is not always easy to follow.

Jesus offers a crazy prospect—believe in Me—and receive eternal life.  It’s not as simple as acknowledging that Jesus is nice, or good, or even divine. Jesus used the word “gnaw” when He told His followers to “eat his flesh”—that is, live My kind of life.

Let me ask you the same question Jesus asks— Are you willing to gnaw on Jesus?  Can you accept the life of grace He offers? I don’t mean simply accepting His gracious gift— but accepting the life, that gift offers. Accepting His grace is easy—who doesn’t want to escape punishment? Accepting the LIFE-STYLE Jesus offers is more difficult—it requires some gnawing.

For some that day, Jesus was just a person who was talking crazy-talk. Others were hungry but only wanted temporal food, not eternal food. Others only heard the preposterous. Others heard their goodness was not enough to secure their eternity. Those all left—bewildered, sad, and still hungry.

Others heard Jesus’ words—Follow Me. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.

Will you stay or will you go?

Father, give me Your strength when I think following Christ is not worth it. Help me see passed my circumstances to eternity. Help me live out the life You’ve called me to live. Teach me the value of “gnawing” on Christ – studying, applying and living out the life of grace the Holy Spirit empowers me to live. Thank You for life—eternal life.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

He IS a Handsome Gentleman

002My head is still swimming today – Ozzy is my snuggle-buddy when I don’t feel well, so he’s on my mind today. Ozzy is a schnauzer-poodle mix, therefore a schnoodle. His daily affirmation is; You are a handsome gentleman and wonderful in every way. I’ve had many dogs in my life, by far Ozzy has been the best. He’s a very friendly dog. Always wanting to please me, he is very obedient with the exception of the times his exuberance gets the best of him.

Having been a dog lover all my life, I honestly prefer the company of a dog to that of most people I know. Dogs have a way of making you feel good. A dog loves you to death, even on your most despicable days.

The little video and song God and Dog.  No, I do not think God is a dog. I do think God reveals Himself in His creation, and the song by Wendy Francisco captures that truth in a simple and compelling way.

As much as Ozzy loves me in my imperfection, impatience and fallen state, God loves me more. So often God is portrayed as a being who is big and scary, looking for his subjects to slip up so he can punish them. There is nothing farther from the truth. God is holy. He hates sin. One day He will punish those who reject His gift of salvation, but now, God is a loving Father, longing for His creation to come to Him. God would prefer to lavish His love on you rather than punish you, that’s why He offered up His only Son to pay for the sin of you and me.

Ozzy will stand and look out the window when I leave. He’ll watch me back out of the drive. He’ll watch until my car rounds the corner. It always makes me sad. When I return home, be it 5 minutes or 5 hours later, he’s there to greet me, his nubby tail wagging and his nose sniffing. I usually get a toy presented to me. As soon as I sit down, he’s in my lap. It’s very gratifying after a long day at work.

In Luke 15:11-32 Jesus tells the familiar story of the prodigal son. The younger son took his inheritance before his father died, and squandered his wealth in wild living. The son’s actions were intentional and willful.   So was his action to come back to his father. The son returned to the father who was waiting, longing and watching for his son’s homecoming. The dad’s response to the homecoming of his lost son—a joyful party.

God is longing to have a close relationship with you. If you have left to squander your wealth in wild living, He’s waiting for you to come back. Don’t worry when you return, He’ll be happy. He’s not interested in your shame, only your willingness to return to Him. Don’t wait any longer, He is longing for your return and will dance with glee when you arrive.

If you have never “left home” enjoy His company today. He’s always thrilled to have you around.

Father, thank you for the ways You reveal Yourself around us.   I’m so grateful for you endless love, compassion, mercy and faithfulness.

Stay Out of the Trash!

dirty Ozzy

 

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  Deuteronomy 30:11 (NIV)

 

 

Ozzy is fed twice a day, plus treats for good behavior. He has never been underweight. He has a great life and if he asks for more food, he gets it. He does ask. If he’s hungry and his food bowl is empty, he’ll knock his food bowl around until his needs are met.

Still, I have to police the trash. We don’t have a trash can in the kitchen—that seems to be an open invitation for trouble. Our trash usually hangs from one of the cupboard knobs in the plastic bag we get from the grocery store. We take the trash out often. The crinkly bag offers me a warning that Ozzy is about to make a huge mess.

What is in the trash that is so appealing? Once the tidbit of goodness Ozzy found was the burned, greasy ketchup from the aluminum foil that covered the meat loaf.  By burned, I mean, BLACK. Other times it’s the paper napkins or paper towels, Q-tips, various wrappers or potato peels. Sometimes there is food in his bowl, which he ignores to go digging for something else. Whatever it is Ozzy finds in the trash, it’s not as good as the food sitting untouched in his bowl.

I don’t know why the trash is so appealing. I will admit, I have opted for trash instead of good food, figuratively speaking. Sometimes the trash has an appeal. There is something tantalizing about it. Unfortunately, it takes being in the trashcan for the realization to set in; this is trash, there has to be something better. In writing about Moses, Hebrews 11:25, admits there is some pleasure in sin, albeit fleeting. The pleasure is not usually in a 1:1 ratio with the trouble sin causes. The pleasure is limited, the problems usually compound.

Still, we see the tendency in others and ourselves, to rush toward sin, to dig in the trash. God made a clear distinction in Deuteronomy 30:11-20.

God states it’s not hard to understand: life and prosperity or death and destruction. The trashcan is there and available for rooting through, but God gives the “Duh” advice in v 19, choose life. The reasons are interesting: first for our descendents, but more importantly,

“that you may love the Lord your God and listen to His voice

and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life…”

Following the tendency to dig in the trash is the tendency to blame someone else for putting you there or giving you trash while you look at the good food of others.   It’s difficult to live both in and out of the trash can. So, God tells us simply to stay out, for our own good; life and love are easier outside of the trash can. He has prosperity and life for each of us, if that is what we choose.

 

Father, thank You for Your gift of love! Remind me daily to stay out of the trash. Remind me the easy way is often not the best way. Remind me no matter how good the trash may look, it’s still trash. Help me to choose Your way and the good things You have for me. Help me to love You, hold fast to You and find my life in You.